When I have described the well-considered, coherent political and economic strategies of the conservative white South, as I have done here, here and here, I am sometimes been accused of being a “conspiracy theorist.” But one need not believe that white-hooded Dragons and Wizards are secretly coordinating the actions of Southern conservative politicians from a bunker underneath Stone Mountain in Georgia to believe that a number of contemporary policies — from race-to-the-bottom economic policies to voter disfranchisement and attempts to decentralize or privatize federal social insurance entitlements — serve the interests of those who promote them, who tend to be white Southern conservatives.
Just as a strategy is not a conspiracy, so it is not insanity. Ironically, American progressives, centrists and some Northern conservatives are only deluding themselves, when they insist that the kind of right-wing Southerners behind the government shutdown are “crazy.” Crazy, yes — crazy like a fox.
Another mistake is the failure to recognize that the Southern elite strategy, though bound up with white supremacy throughout history, is primarily about cheap and powerless labor, not about race. If the South and the U.S. as a whole through some magical transformation became racially homogeneous tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that the Southern business and political class would suddenly embrace a new model of political economy based on high wages, high taxes and centralized government, rather than pursue its historical model of a low-wage, low-tax, decentralized system, even though all workers, employers and investors now shared a common skin color.
So the struggle is not one to convert Southern Baptists to Darwinism or to get racists to celebrate diversity. The on-going power struggle between the local elites of the former Confederacy and their allies in other regions and the rest of the United States is not primarily about personal attitudes. It is about power and wealth.
For some time, the initiative has rested with the Southern power elite, which knows what it wants and has a plan to get it. The strategy of the conservative South, as a nation-within-a nation and in the global economy, combines an economic strategy and a political strategy.
The economic strategy is to maximize the attractiveness of the former Confederacy to external investors, by allowing Southern states to out-compete other states in the U.S., as well as other countries if possible, in a race to the bottom by means of low wages, stingy government welfare (which if generous increases the bargaining power of poor workers by decreasing their desperation) and low levels of environmental regulation.
The political strategy of the Southern elite is to prevent the Southern victims of these local economic policies from teaming up with allies in other parts of the U.S. to impose federal-level reforms on the Southern states. Voter suppression seeks to prevent voting by lower-income Southerners of all races who are hostile to the Southern power elite. Partisan gerrymandering of the U.S. House of Representatives by conservatives in Southern state legislatures weakens the votes of anti-conservative Southerners, if they are allowed to vote.
If voter suppression and vote dilution strategies fail, the Southern conservatives can still try to ward off unwelcome federally-imposed reforms that might weaken control of the Southern workforce by Southern employers and their political agents, by policies of devolving federal programs to the states, privatizing federal programs like Social Security and Medicare, blocking the implementation of new federal entitlements like Obamacare or a combination of these strategies.
To date the response of progressives and centrists, as well as moderate conservatives in the North (who have a quite different tradition) to what might be called the Southern Autonomy Project has been feeble and reactive. The South acts, the rest of the country reacts.
Here Midwestern Republican legislatures or governors try to copy the South’s anti-labor “right-to-work” legislation, and labor activists and liberals react. The legislatures in the South and their allies elsewhere pass voter suppression laws, and civil rights groups scramble to counteract them. Now the Southern-dominated Tea Party in the House shuts down the government and threatens to force the federal government into default. In this game of “Whack-a-mole,” the Southern right and its neo-Jacksonian allies in other parts of the country always has the initiative.
Instead of waiting for the next Southern conservative outrage, and treating it as a single, isolated example of inexplicable craziness, the rest of America from center-left to center-right should recognize that it is dealing with different aspects of a single strategy by a regional elite — the Southern Autonomy Project. It is time for the non-Southern American majority, in alliance with many non-elite Southerners of all races, to target and attack every element of the Southern Autonomy Project simultaneously. If the neo-Confederates want to wage political and economic war, their fellow Americans should choose to respond with political and economic war on all fronts, not on the terms and in the places the Southern conservatives choose.
Setting political difficulty aside, it is intellectually easy to set forth a grand national strategy that consists of coordinated federal policies to defeat the Southern Autonomy Project.
A federal living wage. At one blow, a much higher federal minimum wage would cripple the ability of Southern states to lure companies from more generous states which supplement the too-low present federal minimum wage with higher local state or urban minimum wages. (Strong national unions could do the same, but that is not a realistic option at present.)
Nationalization of social insurance. Social insurance programs with both federal and state components, like Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), allow Southern states to be stingier than many other states, creating more desperate workers who are more dependent on the mercy of employers and elite-dominated charities. Completely federalizing Medicaid (as President Ronald Reagan suggested!) and other hybrid federal-state social insurance programs would cripple the Southern Autonomy Project further.
Real voting rights. Using the authority of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Congress should completely federalize voting requirements for all federal, state and local elections, making it as easy as possible for U.S. citizens to vote — over the objections of kicking and screaming neo-Confederates.
Nonpartisan redistricting. Partisan redistricting by majorities in state legislatures should be replaced by nonpartisan redistricting commissions, as in California, New Jersey and other states. The redistricting commissions should be truly nonpartisan, not “bipartisan” arrangements in which incumbent Republicans and incumbent Democrats cut deals to protect their safe seats from competition. (Electoral reforms like instant run-off voting and proportional representation are struggles for a more distant future).
Abolish the Senate filibuster. The filibuster is not part of the U.S. constitution. It has been used by Southern white conservatives from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first to preserve Southern white power and economic privilege. This relic of premodern British parliamentary politics should be abolished. Democracy means majority rule. If the Southern Right loses a battle in Congress, it can try to round up allies and win next time. It should no longer be able to paralyze the Senate, the Congress or the federal government as a whole.
Abolish the federal debt ceiling completely. The federal debt ceiling is another institution like the filibuster which has now been ruined by being abused by Southern conservatives. Now that the Southern right is trying to turn it into a recurrent tool of hostage-taking when it loses votes in Congress, the federal debt ceiling should be abolished. The federal government should be authorized to borrow any amount necessary to fund spending appropriated or authorized by Congress, if there is any shortfall in tax revenues.
Put all these policies and perhaps others together, and you have a National Majority Rule Project capable of thwarting the Southern Autonomy Project. The best defense is a good offense.
Does saying this make me, a white Southerner, a traitor to the South? Among the beneficiaries of a National Majority Rule Project, if it succeeded, would be middle- and low-income white Southerners, whose interests have never been identical with those of the local oligarchs. Particularly among the Scots-Irish of Appalachia and the Ozarks, there have always been many Southern white populists and radicals — from the West Virginian and Kentucky Unionists of the Civil War to New Deal liberals in Texas — who have understood the need to ally ourselves with non-Southerners in national politics to defeat the local Nabobs, Bourbons and Big Mules. The true Southern patriots are those of us who want to liberate the diverse population of the South from being exploited as wage earners and from being disfranchised or manipulated as voters. Another term for the National Majority Rule Project might be the Southern Liberation Movement.
Will the initiative remain with aggressive Southern reactionaries, as their fellow Americans try to appease them or react on a case-by-case basis against a feint here or a diversion there? Or will an aroused national majority, tired of being pushed around by a selfish Southern minority of the shrinking American white majority, finally fight back?
A Christian TV host this week called on God to consider a “military takeover” of President Barack Obama’s government because it could be the only way to save the country from tyranny.
On his Monday Internet broadcast, Morning Star TV’s Rick Joyner predicted that democracy was “doomed” unless the Lord imposed martial law.
“The balance of powers in the legislative and judicial branches were supposed to balance and keep in check, hold in check, the potential tyranny from the executive branch overstepping their bounds,” Joyner explained. “The people are not always right, it depends on what people they are. And another thing the founders warned about is this thing will only work for a moral and a religious people. You remove morality, you remove the religious influence, and it cannot work.”
“We’re headed for serious tyranny, a terrible tyranny right now,” he continued. “But guess what? The kingdom is coming, the Kingdom of God is coming. And America is not the Kingdom of God. I think we have been used in some wonderful and powerful ways by God, we’ve been one of the most generous nations in history. We’ve done so much good.”
“That’s why I appeal to the Lord: Don’t let us be totally destroyed, please raise up those who will save us. And as I’ve been telling friends for a long time, no election is going to get the right person in there because the system is so broken.”
Joyner added that the “only hope is a military takeover, martial law.”
“And that the most crucial element of that is who to the martial [sic] is going to be,” he said. “I believe there are noble leaders in our military that love the republic and love everything we stand for. And they could seize the government.”
There used to be a thing called treason. People used to go to jail for advocating the violent overthrow of the government. Maybe you get a pass if you are praying to God to overthrow the government.
When you think that creationists wandering the backwaters of the US couldn't be topped, there's always a Saudi cleric.
A Saudi cleric sparked a wave of mockery online when he warned women that driving would affect their ovaries and bring “clinical disorders” upon their children.
The warning came ahead of an October 26 initiative to defy a longstanding driving ban on women in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
“Physiological science” has found that driving “automatically affects the ovaries and pushes up the pelvis,” Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan warned women in remarks to local news website Sabq.org.
“This is why we find that children born to most women who continuously drive suffer from clinical disorders of varying degrees,” he said.
His comments prompted criticism on Twitter, which has become a rare platform for Saudis to voice their opinions in the absolute monarchy.
“What a mentality we have. People went to space and you still ban women from driving. Idiots,” said one comment.
“When idiocy marries dogma in the chapel of medieval traditions, this is their prodigal child,” wrote a female tweeter.
Luhaydan, a member of the senior Ulema (Muslim scholars) Commission and former head of the Supreme Judicial Council, said that “evidence from the Quran and Sunna (the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed) completely prohibit (women’s driving) on moral and social background.”
An online petition titled “Oct 26th, driving for women” amassed nearly 12,000 signatures, while access to it was blocked in the kingdom on Sunday.
Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are banned from driving.
Activists declared a day of defiance against the ban on June 17, 2011, but few women answered the call to drive. Some of those who did were stopped by police and forced to sign a pledge not to take to the wheel again.
Saudi Arabia imposes other restrictions on women, including a requirement to cover themselves from head to toe when in public.
The 2011 call, which spread through Facebook and Twitter, was the largest mass action since November 1990, when 47 Saudi women were arrested and severely punished after demonstrating in cars.
Paula Deen ordered African-American workers to “dress in an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit” and ring a dinner bell, according to a woman who is still employed at the disgraced cook’s Georgia restaurant.
Following Deen’s dramatic fall from grace after her admission that she had used racial slurs, The New York Times‘ Kim Severson went to Savannah to check out the former food network host’s crumbling empire. Severson spoke to Dora Charles, a black cook who helped Deen open her Lady & Sons restaurant over 20 years ago.
“She said, ‘Stick with me, one day if I get rich, you’ll get rich,’” Charles explained. “It just passed me by. You know, I’m not going to run behind her and say, ‘You promised me, you promised me. Where my half? Where my part?’ You know? It wasn’t all about that. Actually, all I was looking for was a good salary.”
But Charles said that when Deen launched her Food Network show, she was was only getting paid $6.50 an hour.
“I told her, at times, I didn’t even have enough money to buy my own medications,” she recalled, demonstrating how Deen once casually tossed a $100 bill at her when she complained that she couldn’t afford her medical bills.
“She was sitting across the table and she said — it didn’t reach me — and she said, ‘Here’s a hundred dollars, go buy your medicine.’”
“Yeah, she wanted [Employee Ineata Jones] ‘Jellyroll’ to dress like that as well,” Charles remarked.
And the slavery theme wasn’t just limited to Deen’s wedding fantasy, according to the Times:
Ms. Deen used Ms. Jones for restaurant theater. At 11 a.m., when the doors opened at the Lady & Sons, she stood in front and rang an iron dinner bell, something she had asked Mrs. Charles to do as well. An image of Ms. Jones doing just that was turned into a postcard sold at Paula Deen stores.
Ms. Jones was also in charge of making hoecakes, the cornmeal pancakes served to every guest. Ms. Deen had designed a station so diners could watch them being made. At both jobs, Mrs. Charles and other employees said, Ms. Deen wanted Ms. Jones to dress in an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit.
“Jellyroll didn’t want to hear that,” Mrs. Charles said. “She didn’t want to do that.”
“I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell,’” Charles insisted. “That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.”
“Do you feel like Paul Deen is racist?” Severson wondered.
“I do, I do,” Charles admitted after a long pause.
“Have you ever heard Paul Deen use the N-word?” Severson asked.
“I’ve heard her used the N-word,” Charles replied. “She say, ‘I tell all y’all n*ggers, that’s what’s wrong with y’all n*ggers now today.’”
Deen’s public relations team has argued that no employee was ever made to dress up like Aunt Jemima and ring a dinner bell.
“Fundamentally Dora’s complaint is not about race but about money,” they said in a statement. “It is about an employee that despite over 20 years of generosity feels that she still deserves yet even more financial support from Paula Deen.”
Both the Times and and New York Magazine, however, obtained promotional photos from Lady & Sons of Ineata Jones wearing an Aunt Jemima-style apron and ringing a dinner bell.
At the time of publication, Charles was reportedly still employed by Deen’s Lady & Sons restaurant, but she said she realized that her time there was almost over. She hopes to one day open her own restaurant.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) knows that Republicans may lose some votes at first after the party kills immigration reform, but he is predicting that Hispanics will then wake up and realize that “Republicans really like me.”
In an effort to block all efforts at comprehensive immigration reform, Gohmert joined with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to explain to the conservative website World Net Daily why so-called “amnesty” would be bad for the country.
Gohmert said that Republicans needed to make it clear to immigrants that comprehensive reform was being stopped to “preserve a country that Hispanics will want to come to.”
“If we are not willing to follow the law, we’re going to lose that, and I’m afraid that people do not realize how serious things have gotten,” the Texas congressman said. “But, yeah, we could possibly pay in the polls in the short term. But just as you’ve had more and more African-Americans realizing, ‘Wow, we have one party that’s pandered to us, doled out government benefits, kept us from reaching our God-given potential.’”
Republicans, however, Gohmert said, wanted Hispanics to learn English “because we want you not to be a ditch digger because you can’t communicate. We know you are smart enough to be president of this company and to be president of this country if you’re born here.”
“And if we don’t communicate that message we could pay for it,” he warned. “We could in the short term, but in the long term, I think you will see people start waking up and go, ‘Wow, I’m Hispanic, these Republicans really like me.’”
Russia’s most prominent opposition leader described the country’s government as a regime of “scumbags” today in impassioned final words to a provincial court that could jail him for up to six years.
Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who has emerged as the most charismatic leader of protests against President Vladimir Putin, is on trial for embezzlement of 16m roubles (£320,000) from a timber company, which allegedly occurred when he worked as the adviser to the governor of Kirov region in 2009.
Mr Navalny has described the charges as bizarre and fabricated, and the defendant yesterday described the trial as a “political order” from the Kremlin. Mr Navalny has angered the authorities by uncovering a number of cases of corruption within government elites and publishing details on his blog. The spokesperson for the country’s Investigative Committee admitted in an interview that the authorities had been spurred by his investigations to bring a prosecution against him.
Mr Navalny also wants to stand in September elections for the Moscow Mayor against the Kremlin’s preferred choice, the incumbent, Sergei Sobyanin. He launched his campaign this week, and there has been speculation that the main goal of the court case is to prevent Mr Navalny from standing. If Judge Sergei Blinov, who during his entire career has never issued an innocent verdict, finds Mr Navalny guilty, then he will be barred from standing in elections. The prospect that he will receive a jail term became more real yesterday when the state prosecutor asked the judge to jail Mr Navalny for six years.
Mr Navalny’s co-defendant, Petr Ofitserov, told the court that he could have done a deal with investigators to provide false testimony against Mr Navalny, but had decided not to. “I have five children. I could have made a deal,” said Mr Ofitserov. “But when my children grow up they will ask me what I did in this case. And they would find out.”
In a final speech attacking the government of Mr Putin, Mr Navalny said there was a “feudal system” in the country, and that “100 people have hijacked power thanks to state television, inertia, and public apathy.”
The judge retired to consider the verdict and sentence, which will he will announce on 18 July.
For decades now, I’ve seen the aftermath of botched drug raids; early morning mayhem in which police, using mauls and wearing body armor, smash through the front doors of ghetto homes, guns drawn, shouting for sleeping residents to drop to the ground. I’ve seen raids of sixteen or eighteen addresses come up empty for drugs and weapons at more than half of those locations. And of course, I’ve seen raiding officers drop a copy of the signed, documented and perfectly legal probable cause on the rowhouse floor, gather equipment, and walk out of homes from which they recovered no evidence of criminality.
“Are you gonna fix my door?” is always a stunned resident’s first question.
“You need to call the city for that,” is always the ready, ambiguous reply.
What poor and working-class communities routinely endure within the very constitutional construct of our drug war makes the wails of indignation over this NSA data-mining astonishing and embarrassing to me. And no, before you get wound up prematurely and choose the too-easy, I-didn’t-read-deep-enough argument, I am not saying that overreach in other realms of the criminal justice system justifies overreach anywhere else.
After all, no one is suggesting that we do away with court-approved search warrants for domestic crime suppression. Or dialed-numbered recorders. Or interrogation rooms. Or informants. Or just about any other law enforcement asset that can be used properly and misused egregiously. Oh, more people are now complaining about the excesses of the drug war, to be sure. But all of us understand that the existing legal weapons and strategies are there for all crimes — for murder, for rape, for robbery, for burglary. Hell, if a crew of detectives were pulling cell numbers off a tower to identify and arrest a rampaging serial rapist — and traipsing through the phone metadata of ten thousand other citizens to do it — we’d do more than applaud; we’d buy the film rights. We are comfortable with a certain level of intrusion involving all previous weapons of law enforcement, and even the use of phone metadata as it can be utilized. Why, I wonder. And why has this particular law enforcement intervention– no less legal as it was proposed to the FISA court — engaged the worst fears of many.